A regular soup in my household, watercress soup was not my most favourite. It was too peculiar in taste, like how some people aren’t all that into coriander. (I actually hated coriander when I was younger but my mum put it on everything and ‘trained’ me to like it. Now it’s awesome.) I’ve only known watercress in soups. I’ve always eaten it as something old, fibrous and in an over-boiled shade of green. And with shards of pork bone that I’d come across whilst trying to masticate on the roughage, crunching my teeth and temporarily dying in the process.
On my first trip to London in 2009, I was exposed to egg and cress sandwiches. Whoa. That was a different cress story altogether. Petite and peppery, eating the younger version of watercress allowed me to marvel at how vegetables can look and taste so different at various stages of maturity.
Thinking of a soup recipe, I decided to revisit watercress after an incredibly long hiatus from it. And surprisingly, I think my palate has evolved to appreciate it now.
Since watercress soup is typically made with pork and pork bones, I decided to combine my version with another of my favourite soup ingredients: SEAWEED.
The earthy taste of seaweed always reminds me of days on the beach and swims in the ocean. Chinese-style seaweed soup is often made with an unsalted ‘nori’ type of seaweed that has a delicate crunch to it. You can buy it in disc form at food stores where the Chinese soup ingredients are stocked. What I love about this seaweed is that once dipped in hot water, it becomes instantly edible. Something that needs ZERO prep or cooking time, plus being packed with all the unique goodness of the sea… iodine, iron, selenium, calcium, vitamins and antioxidants? What’s there not to love?
And if you don’t have access to this particular preparation of seaweed, any kind of seaweed goes! Wakame is a great substitute. Even roasted nori sheets made for sushi-rolling can be cut into strips and added to your soup. If the seaweed available to you needs a little bit of cooking, simply add it into the pot earlier for however long it needs to be cooked for; you could even add it in at the start of the Even thick seaweeds like kombu don’t need any longer than 30 minutes to soften and become edible.
The number of dates you add to your soup depends on the size of dates you have on you. There are those slightly smaller than the size of your thumb, and there are those that could be twice as big! My recipe takes that into account. The worst outcome from using too much dates is that your soup becomes very sweet. If this happens, you balance out the sweetness by adding more water and teensy amounts of salt and vinegar.
The synergy of flavours, textures and nutrition makes this a perfect companion to a bowl of rice, or even as a base for a mean bowl of noodle soup!
Be nourished the Malaysian Chinese way with this slurpy bowl of watercressy, seaweedy seriousness.
Watercress Seaweed Soup
A marriage of two well-loved Chinese-style broths, this dish is a great side to a bowl of rice, or add noodles for a nourishing meal.
- 120g fresh mature watercress
- 1/2 a large carrot, sliced thinly
- 5-8 Chinese dates (use 5 if your dates are jumbo-sized and more if smaller)
- Handful of Chinese Seaweed (1/4 of a disc) or 10-15g of any type of dehydrated seaweed
- 1 tsp grated ginger
- 1 tsp rice vinegar
- 1 1/2 tsp Pink Himalayan Salt
- 1 litre + 1 cup water
- Pepper to taste
- 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil (Optional)
- Step 1 Put water, dates and salt in a pot and boil with the lid on for 30 minutes.
- Step 2 Bring down to a low simmer. Put in watercress, carrot and grated ginger. Put lid back on and leave to cook for 8-10 minutes.
- Step 3 Remove lid, add seaweed, vinegar, pepper and oil.
- Step 4 Serve immediately.
- Step 5 NOTE: If your seaweed is not the sort that can be instantly re-hydrated and eaten, then put in your seaweed earlier, to allow whatever time is needed for it to cook thoroughly.